Robot Wars Wiki

"This is Lightning, just wait for the thunder!"
— Laurie Calvert in Series 7

Lightning was a competitor robot that fought in Series 7 of Robot Wars as well as the Tag Team Terror in the second series of Robot Wars Extreme. It reached the Heat Final in Series 7, losing to Gravity, and the second round of the Extreme 2 Tag Team Terror alongside The Steel Avenger, losing to eventual champions Bulldog Breed and Robochicken.


Lightning from Extreme 2 with its flippers open

Lightning was the brainchild of Laurie Calvert, who came up with the idea for the robot after seeing Cassius self-right in Series 2. It took the team several years to gather the sufficient funds to assemble Lightning, with the project costing £4000 and the robot receiving up to £2500 worth of parts. Construction of Lightning began on February 1st 2001[1].

"The robot's design philosophy is to combine ramming motion with flipping action for maximum devastation."
— Team Lightning on their robot

Lightning was a blue and silver wedge-shaped robot with two large rear spikes and a novel side-mounted pneumatic flipping weapon. In Extreme 2, this consisted of two small side flippers which opened outward from both sides of the robot in a similar manner to a front-hinged flipper, although only one of the flippers allowed Lightning to self-right. In Series 7 the flippers were replaced with one large side flipper, which could act as the robot's self-righting mechanism and featured interchangeable panels and flipper configurations which could be changed to suit its opponents. However, this was not permitted under the Series 7 rules, so Team Lightning chose to use the single panel flipper for all of its battles as it was considered twice as powerful as the smaller ones.

The Series 7 Lightning self-righting

Lightning with rear spikes in the arena

Lightning's weapon set-up was unusual among flippers, which usually opened straight up or fired outwards.

"Our engineer opted for a sideways flipper to be different as the show wanted different machines, and so I agreed with him. I think if the show had gone on Lightning may well have ended up with a Chaos 2 style flipper."
— Laurie Calvert on YouTube[2]

The robot's key tactic was to drive under other robots and use the flipper(s) to throw them onto their sides, against the wall or into the pit. However, the team lacked experience in the arena, and the robot had a high ground clearance that was easily exploited by robots such as Bulldog Breed and Gravity.

Lightning was given extensive modifications for Series 7, with help from Team Chaos and The Steel Avenger team.

"Ian Swann (Chaos 2), John & Jacky Willoughby (Steel Avenger), Richard, Richard's son Chris and myself, Laurie (all from Lightning) all set about setting up the electronics. Well actually Ian did (he designed it). Got a gyro too for better control. More speed in reverse and faster at turning now (one rotate in 1.0 second with the gyro on!). All the problems are sorted out that took us out whilst fighting Bulldog Breed. We are PPM now rather than PCM and the new board has the fail safes which will work better than the old system (which didn't work when the receiver battery was lost). The new electronics are buried deep inside. The new single flipper for Lightning features internal rams in an unusual position. The first ram assists the motion at the start and the second ram delivers the final push. Total power is top secret: Doesn't look as nice as the old two-sideways flippers but it has two rams on one flipper now, enabling it to self-right with ease in 1.2 seconds (3 out of 3 times, no problem). Much more power than before. If only the flipper was a little longer towards the front. Still very useful though."
— Lightning website on the improvements for Series 7

Alien Drivers[]

Lappal and another alien

When Lightning was built, Nigel Booth from the Alien films, and a friend of Calvert's, commissioned four small foam aliens to be added to Lightning in the hope that they would fall off during the fight for extra interest. The idea stemmed from a backstory that Lightning was constructed from the remnants of a crashed alien spaceship.

One particular alien, named Lappal, derived from the names of Laurie, Phil and Albert (Phil Denyer was the first engineer, replaced by Richard De Smedt) was given the task of "driving" the robot. Lappal sat in a special triangular section on top, next to the flipper.

"The real idea of this section was to act as a 'hook' to trap any robots on top of us so they could not drive off, and we could take them places, such as the pit or House Robots (see Nasty Humphrey in our first Tag Team fight). It worked well!"
— Laurie Calvert

The Team[]

The Lightning team in Series 7

Lightning was entered into Robot Wars by an Essex-based team, hence their partnership with Team Steel Avenger in Extreme 2. The team was captained by Laurie Calvert, the lead designer and builder of Lightning who also served as the driver. He was consistently joined by Richard De Smedt, who designed the electronics for Lightning and operated the weapons. For Series 7 only, Albert Schuller was the third team member.


Lightning R2, the version of Lightning that failed to qualify for Series 5

Lightning before battling Razer at the Series 5 qualifiers

Lightning preparing for another qualifier battle

Lightning attempted to qualify for Series 5, attending the London Arena live event, where it fought three battles[3]. The first battle was against Razer. Despite five punctures, Lightning kept going to the end, but still lost the battle. It then fought Goldeneye, which it defeated by flipping it until it broke down. The third battle was a melee with six robots in total including Razer and Shunt. These performances were not enough for Lightning to qualify for Series 5.

"We didn't qualify for this year. In one way I'm pleased because this gives us time to develop and get competitive rather than be cannon fodder for another robot. Roll on next year....or other shows!"
— Lightning website

Lightning at the Sixth Wars Qualifiers

The Extreme 2 version of Lightning before being painted

At the Series 6 qualifiers, Lightning was drawn against Barbaric Response, Twister and TX-108, but TX-108 was forced to withdraw before the battle[4]. Lightning charged across the arena into Twister, knocking the Team Berserk machine away before ramming it. Barbaric Response came in, and the three robots rammed each other, until Lightning flipped Twister onto its back weapon, where it became stuck. Barbaric Response tried to get under Lightning and flip it, but struggled to get under the sides. However, when the two met head on, Barbaric Response got under Lightning and flipped it on its back, and Lightning could not self-right. Immobile, Lightning lost the battle and consequently failed to qualify.[5]

"Albert was bitterly disappointed, Richard was relieved because if that had have happened on the show (and it would have eventually) we would have been sitting ducks for the House Robots. I was somewhere in the middle. The only damage to Lightning was a few scratches and lost aerials (when the House bot pushed us upside down across the arena to the pit area). We could have fought again. 1. We need a front scoop that isn't too thick so we go under them. 2. We need double the gas pressure so we can self-right. The good news is that Lightning got many admiring comments on how well made it was."
— Lightning website

Lightning's front, badly scratched after its Series 7 qualifier

Lightning's broken spike after its Series 7 qualifier

At the Series 7 qualifiers, Lightning was drawn against Alchemy, Barber-Ous 2'n a Bit and Colossus. Alchemy broke down at the start of the battle. Barber-Ous 2'n a Bit started well, damaging Lightning's front scoop and breaking one of its rear spikes. However, Lightning was able to knock one of Barber-Ous' wheels off, and it soon broke down after being attacked by the other robots. Lightning flipped Colossus, but Colossus self-righted, so Lightning flipped them again. This time, Colossus failed to self-right, leaving Lightning as the winner of the battle, giving it an automatic place in Series 7.[6]

Lightning did not attempt to enter any of the reboot series, although Laurie Calvert applied for Series 8 as part of Team. Ablaze, with Dystopia. Ultimately Dystopia was not chosen to compete, with its builder Gareth Anstee later entering Series 9 with a new team, The Greenwich Greats.

Robot History[]

Extreme 2[]

"Will it strike twice? They have double flippers!"
Jonathan Pearce

Team Lightning in the metal garb of Team Steel Avenger

Lightning's first appearance was in a Tag Team partnership with previous Tag Team Terror runner-up The Steel Avenger, during the second series of Extreme. Its first round was in a battle against returning robots Nasty Humphrey and Stinger.

"We teamed up with the Lightning boys...their first appearance on Robot Wars and we were pleased to be partnering such a well-built machine."
— John Willoughby

Lightning and Humphrey exposed to Mr. Psycho

Lightning went out first, against Nasty Humphrey. The two robots met in the centre, but Lightning could no get its wedge fully underneath its opponent. Nasty Humphrey's axe struck Lightning twice, but failed to do any significant damage, despite piercing the armour. Lightning pushed Nasty Humphrey again and managed to get further underneath, pushing Nasty Humphrey into Mr. Psycho's CPZ. Psycho's hammer came down, and although the hammer missed, Psycho's wrist still crashed down onto Nasty Humphrey.

"It wasn't a forked attack, it was straight in there, and it wasn't a bolt out of the blue, you could see it coming, Lightning's attack!"
— Jonathan Pearce

Lightning tossed aside by the Disc of Doom

Lightning drove away, allowing Nasty Humphrey to escape Mr Psycho as well. Nasty Humphrey activated the Disc of Doom before Lightning got under it again, wedged beneath Nasty Humphrey, but when driving over the Disc, it skidded in reverse, freeing Nasty Humphrey and allowing it to attack Lightning. Nasty Humphrey missed with its axe, and Lightning got under again and pushed it. The two robots clashed on the Disc of Doom, and once again Lightning was thrown away, whereas the heavier Nasty Humphrey drove over it. After more dodging around the Disc of Doom, Nasty Humphrey tagged Stinger, who charged out and attacked Lightning with the mace. As Stinger began to spin, Lightning retreated and tagged The Steel Avenger. Stinger and The Steel Avenger fought for a while, but when The Steel Avenger pushed Stinger into the pit, it fell in itself.

"Stinger on the brink! And down! Oh, and Steel Avenger follows through and goes down into the pit as well! So they're out of it, leaving Nasty Humphrey and Lightning to fight again, and the bout will end as it started, and it started in fine style, I thought!"
— Jonathan Pearce

Lightning and Nasty Humphrey came out to fight again, and Nasty Humphrey hit one of Lightning's flippers with its axes, jamming it closed. Lightning succeeded in getting its wedge beneath Nasty Humphrey and shunted it into an empty CPZ. Mr. Psycho came in, and both robots fled, but Lightning temporarily became caught beneath Mr. Psycho's track. Mr. Psycho pursued Lightning for while, but Lightning stayed away, and this was edited out of the battle[7]. Lightning escaped and caught up with Nasty Humphrey. who's axe was stuck in the down position, so Lightning pushed it onto the flame pit.

"The new boys Lightning, new to Robot Wars, doing well thus far ... This is a worthy contest, and the two more favoured robots, the more experienced robots let them down!"
— Jonathan Pearce

Lightning flips Nasty Humphrey on its side

Nasty Humphrey drove away, only for Lightning to get underneath it again and ram them into Mr. Psycho, before pushing it to the arena wall, and flipping it so it was left stranded on its side. During the last ten seconds, Lightning's flippers finally activated and it managed to side-strand Nasty Humphrey. However, time ran out before Nasty Humphrey could be attacked by the looming Mr Psycho. The judges unanimously voted Lightning and The Steel Avenger through to the next round.

"I think he'll get us over quite easily, so we've got to make sure our self-righters are working well."
— An apprehensive Laurie Calvert, who drew the short straw and had to face Bulldog Breed first

In the second round, Lightning and The Steel Avenger were drawn against Bulldog Breed and Robochicken. Lightning went out first, against Bulldog Breed.

"Very impressive, Lightning, on the right hand side, very good in the first round victory, I felt, up against Bulldog Breed, which is the single most impressive robot we've seen in the Tag Team Terror"
— Jonathan Pearce at the start of the battle

Bulldog Breed flips Lightning against the arena wall

Bulldog Breed and Lightning dodged each other to begin with. Before long, Bulldog Breed got under Lightning and tossed it against the arena wall. Lightning attempted to self-right, but only succeeded in moving slightly away from the wall, still on its back. Bulldog Breed flipped it again, beaching it on the wall right way up, and moved to position it in attempt to to throw it out of the arena.

"Lightning, teetering on the arena side wall! Lightning, you need to get out of there, otherwise Lightning will suffer a thunderclap of an attack from Bulldog Breed!"
— Jonathan Pearce

However, The Steel Avenger came in, and Bulldog Breed retreated as The Steel Avenger knocked Lightning free of the angle grinder. However, this move trapped The Steel Avenger between the wall and Sgt. Bash.

"I said to John, "Get Steel Avenger out and pull us off, you know - cheat!" Because you're meant to tag, but there was no way I could tag him"
— Laurie Calvert on YouTube[8]

Lightning attacked Bulldog Breed, but seemed to only be able to spin in circles until Growler came out and slammed it into Bulldog Breed, who tossed it back onto the arena wall. The Steel Avenger escaped from Sgt. Bash, as Bulldog Breed flipped Lightning.

"Lightning had its receiver battery fall out so control was lost. Bulldog tried and tried to flip us out but Lightning is a big flat old shape and it wouldn't go. We ended upside-down with our wheels spinning and no control."
— Lightning website[9]

Lightning is bitten by Growler

The two beaten machines

Bulldog Breed was then distracted by attacking Growler. After flipping Growler, Bulldog Breed attacked The Steel Avenger, flipping it into the CPZ where the Robochicken was waiting. Robochicken opened its flipper to pin The Steel Avenger on its side, but The Steel Avenger escaped. It ran back into Bulldog Breed, but its lifter was unable to get under its ground clearance, and it merely drove up and over Bulldog Breed's wedge. Meanwhile, Lightning was unable to self-right and Refbot had begun counting it out. Bulldog Breed flipped the eliminated Lightning as Growler attacked it, then resumed its attacks on The Steel Avenger, tossing it over against the side wall. The Steel Avenger self-righted, and the two darted around as Growler positioned Lightning against an arena wall. Bulldog Breed tossed The Steel Avenger over and kept its open flipper pressed against its baseplate in an attempt to prevent self-righting, but it was forced to retreat in accordance with the "no pinning" rule. Robochicken slid beneath The Steel Avenger and flipped it onto its back. The Steel Avenger self-righted and launched a few axe blows, but Robochicken flipped it up against the immobile Lightning, where it finally broke down and cease was called.

"And I don't think it's going to do too much avenging for its fallen teammate Lightning! Up on its side, it cannot self-right from there."
— Jonathan Pearce as The Steel Avenger is knocked out

Series 7[]

"Has fought previously in a Tag Team, now enters the arena alone."
— Jonathan Pearce

In its first battle in the main competition, Lightning was drawn against 7th seed 13 Black, newcomer Herbinator and veteran The Alien.

Lightning flips Herbinator

Lightning tries to pit 13 Black

Both Herbinator and Lightning headed for 13 Black, with Lightning driving under Herbinator and knocking it away as it did so. As Lightning reversed away, 13 Black slammed into Herbinator, before Lightning came in and flipped Herbinator onto the arena wall, where Herbinator couldn't self-right. Meanwhile, The Alien attacked 13 Black, causing the seeds to spin into Lightning, who also attacked it by shoving it into The Alien. 13 Black got away, but was intercepted by The Alien and hit by its hammer again. After another blow from The Alien, and then bouncing off into Lightning, 13 Black began to let off smoke and took further damage from The Alien and was thrust to one side, but then scurried away, but its discs appeared to stop spinning. However, after this attack, The Alien's safety link fell out, rendering it immobile.

Lightning strands 13 Black

Meanwhile, Herbinator was counted out of the battle by the Refbot. Lightning pressed the pit release four times, eventually causing the pit to descend.[10] 13 Black was by the pit as it opened and Lightning tried to push them down, but drove at the wrong angle, pushing 13 Black to safety. Whilst Shunt attacked Herbinator, 13 Black tried to escape Lightning, but was brought to the arena wall, where one of its discs damaged the wall, before being flipped onto its side by Lightning, and because the self-righting mechanism on 13 Black wasn't working, it was unable to move. However, The Alien had long since been immobilised and was being counted out by Refbot, just as Herbinator had got away from Shunt. Herbinator was battled with Lightning, but it was already out of the battle. Lightning tried to pit Herbinator, and nearly drove in itself. The Alien was flipped by the arena flipper and placed in the Drop Zone, before 'cease' was called, and Lightning advanced with 13 Black.

In Round 2, Lightning fought third place finisher in the New Blood Championship Thor, creating a thunder-and-lightning matchup.

Jayne Middlemiss: "Thor is the God of lightning and thunder."
Laurie Calvert: "Yeah, not religious, sorry!"
— The pre-battle interview

Lightning pushes Thor into the CPZ

Thor tried to attack Lightning with its hammer throughout the first stages of the fight, but Lightning predicted these attacks, and reverse each time. Lightning avoided Thor for a while, but then drove near Shunt, narrowly avoiding the axe. Lightning was having trouble trying to get underneath Thor, and as such was unable to use its flipping weapons.

"Either they're very low, or our flat tyre was developing already, I don't know, because we could not get under them very well"
— Laurie Calvert on YouTube[11]

Lightning eventually managed to get underneath Thor, but was unable to flip it over. Lightning twice pushed Thor into CPZs, where it was attacked by Shunt and Sgt. Bash, but it escaped on both occasions.

"I wonder if Thor needed to get this won early. The longer it goes on, for me, Lighting looks the stronger."
— Jonathan Pearce

Lightning is stuck on Thor's wedge

Lightning flips Thor into the pit

Lightning activated the pit release button and the two robots became locked together, with Thor's hammer slowly coming down on Lightning, causing minor damage. Refbot came in and separated the two robots, then Lightning got underneath Thor and used its side-mounted flipper to tip Thor into the pit.

"I think Lightning's finished. They're not moving are they, Refbot? Go and check. OH, they are! Well, well, well. That was the old rope-a-drope, Muhammad Ali trick, and now Lighting can push Thor down the pit! And completely turns the battle on its head! Kidology from the Lightning team, and Thor has gone!"
— Jonathan Pearce

This put Lightning through to fight the formidable Dutch Robot Wars heat finalist Gravity in the Heat Final.

"This was a new breed of flipper, a flipper far superior to ours in terms of raw power. But Lightning had a lower front end and better control - normally - but little did we know a puncture was to seal our doom"
— Laurie Calvert on the Lightning website

Lightning slips under Gravity

Lightning had entered the battle with a flat tire, leaving it with a great disadvantage. Lightning was driving to the right on an attempt to move forwards, so Gravity was first to get underneath its opponent, where it threw Lightning into the air, and it landed upside-down, before quickly self-righting. Lightning drove underneath Gravity, but didn't flip it. The two robots became locked together and engaged in a pushing contest, before Gravity broke free and threw Lightning into the air again. This attack caused a wire attached to one of Lightning's motors to come loose, which disabled Lightning's operational tire.

Gravity catapults Lightning

"We fought back but could not get the upper hand because of the drag caused by the flat tyre which in turn gave intermittent control. Finally Lightning stopped moving. Jonathan Pearce incorrectly thought we were playing possum but we were out for the count having had a wire come lose and the gyro fallen out of position too. Gravity have an awesome weapon, a flipper many times more powerful than ours."
— Laurie Calvert on the Lightning website

This left Lightning completely immobile, so Gravity threw it across the arena twice more before it was counted out by Refbot. Then, as Shunt was preparing to attack the immobilised Lightning, Gravity flipped Shunt onto its side, then flipped Dead Metal after a few unsuccessful attempts. The battle ended with Refbot showing Gravity a red card.

"It's brilliant, we're rookies, it's our first year in the championships, so top 32 robots, I'm really happy with that!"
— Laurie Calvert after the battle


Extreme Series 2
Tag Team Terror
with The Steel Avenger, Round 2
Round 1 vs. Nasty Humphrey & Stinger Won
Round 2 vs. Bulldog Breed & Robochicken Lost
Series 7
The Seventh Wars - UK Championship
Heat Final
Heat D, Round 1 vs. 13 Black (7), Herbinator, The Alien Qualified
Heat D, Round 2 vs. Thor Won
Heat D, Final vs. Gravity Lost


  • Wins: 3
  • Losses: 2

Series Record[]

Main Series Lightning Series Record
The First Wars Did not enter
The Second Wars Did not enter
The Third Wars Did not enter
The Fourth Wars Did not enter
The Fifth Wars Failed to qualify
The Sixth Wars Failed to qualify
The Seventh Wars Heat Final
Series 8 Not selected with Dystopia
Series 9 Did not enter
Series 10 Did not enter
Robot Wars Extreme Appearances
Series 1 Did not enter
Series 2 Tag Team Terror, Round 2


Outside Robot Wars[]

Laurie Calvert and Lightning in Robots Revenge

Lightning strands Killer Carrot 2

Lightning R2 appeared on the Discovery Channel programme, Robots Revenge, which featured a segment on Laurie Calvert and the newly built Lightning[12]. The chassis of Lightning was shown prior to the completion of the build, before it was driven for the first time, where the robot successfully moved, albeit without full control. Lightning was painted, and completed a test slalom, before arriving at a live event, where it fought Killer Carrot 2. As neither robot had a working weapon at this stage, both robots fought a pushing battle. Lightning was briefly able to strand Killer Carrot 2 on the tyres surrounding the arena, but freed its opponent to allow the match to continue. The battle was sent to an audience decision, and although the presenter of the documentary believed Lightning would win, the audience declared Killer Carrot 2 the winner.

Lightning as Thunder in Techno Games

Like many Robot Wars teams, the Lightning team entered Robot Wars' sister show Techno Games with a modified version of Lightning called Thunder. It entered the football tournament and teamed up with its Tag-Team Terror partner The Steel Avenger (called Tin Tackler in Techno Games). Together, the two robots were called Team Flash.

The team with Lightstorm Vampire at Techno Games

The team also entered Lightstorm, which was the silver medallist in the Rocket Car competitor in 2001, Lightstorm 2, which was the Rocket Car Champion in 2002, Brickbat, which was a Odd Rocket competitor in 2002 and Daft Ada, a Funny Cars competitor in 2003 (which won the NESTA Sportsmanship Award) in Techno Games.

Red Dwarf and Space Ranger, Team Lightning's middleweights

Lightning also competed on the live circuit for a while, fighting several famous robots such as Series 3-4 champion Chaos 2 and Series 6 champion Tornado. In August 2002, Lightning took on Iron-Awe at an event in Yeovil [13]. Notably, it defeated Tornado in one battle at the Lakeside Robot Zone charity event, organised by the late Steve Merrill, in 2004.

Lightning R1, Lightning Strike and Lightning Junior

Lightning Spark

Team Lightning also competed on the Middleweight circuit with Lightning Strike, Red Dwarf and Space Ranger[14], the featherweight circuit with Lightning Junior, and also built the antweight robot Lightning Spark. The three robots Lightning Strike (middleweight), Lightning Junior (featherweight) and Lightning Spark were all wedge-shaped robots resembling the heavyweight Lightning, but did not feature an active weapon.

Despite being fully operational, Lightning has since been retired. It occasionally appeared as a static exhibit at live events, but has not made a public appearance for several years.

A Lightning model created by Laurie Calvert and a team badge

Laurie Calvert also assisted Mike Onslow and Brian Kilburn in the creation of Dave, a humanoid robot[15]. For more information, see International Wreck Crew. Laurie also worked with Mike to create small metal models of Lightning that were originally meant to be sold as kits for people to make themselves, but this never came to fruition. Only 12 of these were made and were sold with a team badge including the members, their sponsor and their then-website.[16]

In September 2018, Laurie Calvert was the focus of a two-page article in the Railway Modeller magazine, focusing on Calvert's steampunk railway modelling. Laurie Calvert also appeared on the TV series The Great Model Railway Challenge, aired on Channel 5 in October 2018. Alongside Mike Onslow, the duo created a model named Plungerbird, in reference to the robot Plunderbird.

Laurie Calvert later moved away from Essex and now resides in Norfolk and Lightning became owned by Richard De Smedt. Over the following years though, the two lost contact. Lightning is still in working condition but would need new batteries as well as an updated radio gear to run.[17]


Lightning's statistics in Extreme 2

  • According to the Barbaric Response team, Lightning became stuck on the flame pit and had had to be freed by Dozer, despite Barbaric Response's efforts to free Laurie Calvert's machine.[18]
  • Lightning's statistics in Series 7 claimed it had two flipper weapons, even though it only had one weapon. This was a carry-over from Extreme 2, where Lightning did have two flippers.
  • Lightning is one of six UK Championship competitors to debut in Robot Wars Extreme: Series 2, and along with Typhoon 2, one of only two to debut outside the New Blood Championship.
  • Laurie Calvert stated that he felt it possible to defeat a robot by flipping it out of the arena, which at that time had not been done.
"I mentioned this to Mat Irvine during filming of the first Techno Games and he said 'keep watching'. The next year was series 3 and the first OOTA by Chaos 2 against Firestorm."
— Laurie Calvert[19]

External Links[]


Official Series 7 photo